Rest in Pieces: 10 Transportation Graveyards

Where the vehicles that once took people from Point A to Point B go to die.

1. Tollbooth Graveyard

Today, drivers zipping up and down the turnpikes of 14 eastern U.S. states can use EZ Pass to pay tolls electronically rather than stopping at the booth to count out exact change. The program has been a godsend for commuters, but raised the death toll for toll booths.

With so many people paying by EZ Pass, states like New Jersey need many fewer booths along their many miles of highway. A batch of those obsolete compartments has found a retirement home in the maintenance area of the Garden State Parkway near the Asbury Park Toll Plaza (yes, that Asbury Park). Call it New Jersey’s tollboth graveyard. The green paint on 30-plus booths slowly decays as they stand sentinel by the side of the road, just waiting for the digital system to falter so they can get back in the game.

2. Graveyard of the Atlantic

Courtesy of NOAA

Humanity has been plying the seas for thousands of years. We haven’t always been doing it successfully. The seafloors around the world are littered with millions of shipwrecks large and small, experts estimate, but of course some waters are more treacherous than others.

Notoriously treacherous waters lie off the coast of North Carolina and Virginia. So many ships have been lost there that the area is known as the Graveyard of the Atlantic and is home to a museum commemorating these maritime disasters. Thousands of ships have sunk in this area where the cold waters of the Labrador Current coming down from Canada clash with warmer waters from the Gulf of Mexico and stir up choppy, unpredictable seas.

Among the more interesting artifacts in the museum: the enigma machine from a German U-boat that met its end off North Carolina in 1942.

3. Subway Reefs

Courtesy of Fast Co.Design

Fish love the subway. At least, they love subway cars.

When some trains reach the end of their useful lives running on the New York City subway lines, the Metropolitan Transit Authority dumps them into the ocean. This is not an exercise in wanton pollution, but rather part of an intentional effort to create habitat for fish. These retired commuter carriers become artificial reefs, their cramped, graffiti-tagged quarters providing the kind of textured, multidimensional habitat that sea creatures crave, and that comes in short supply in the smooth seafloor off New York and New Jersey.

The MTA isn’t alone in the idea to entice fish to come and live in the relics of industry. The U.S. Navy has sunk old warships off the Florida coast for the same reason. The bones of the old Cleveland Browns Stadium sit at the bottom of Lake Erie, hoping to entice fish. (Hopefully those fish aren't Steelers fans.)

4. Space Junk

Courtesy of Wired

The Apollo capsules that carried astronauts to the moon are in museums today. The rovers they drove are stranded on the lunar surface, making the moon itself a transportation graveyard. (Robotic Russian rovers are up there, too.) The big boys that did the heavy lifting met a less glamorous end: Some of the F-1 engines from the monumental Saturn V rockets that blasted Apollo into orbit fell into the sea not far from NASA’s Cape Canaveral launch site, and there they have sat for four decades, decaying underwater in a heap of mangled metal.

And then Jeff Bezos came to the rescue. Bezos, the founder and CEO of Amazon, used his Amazon millions to fund the private space firm Blue Origin, but that isn’t his only foray into space tech. He also funded an effort to retrieve the Apollo engines from the sea bottom, which his team achieved earlier this year.

5. The Tank Cemetery

Courtesy of ArtificialOwl

The nation of Eritrea lies along the Red Sea, just to the north of Ethiopia. When the Italians who colonized the area left following World War II, Eritrea became part of a political federation with Ethiopia, an arrangement that led to three decades of warfare, finally leading to Eritrean Independence in the early ‘90s. The graveyard of tanks, trucks, and other military machinery located near Asmara is a grim reminder.

6. Train Cemetery

Courtesy of Atlas Obscura

They’ve been parked here since the 1940s: Trains bound for nowhere, their locomotives rusting to a red-orange that complements the desolate scenery as the salt winds of the South American plains batter them year after year. Uyumi, in southern Bolivia near Chile and Argentina, was once a hub for the rail lines that connected the mines to the major cities. When the mining industry fell apart, people simply abandoned many of these trains to wither in the wind and suffer the indignities of vandalism. Today tour groups visit the train boneyard to pay homage.

7. Carhenge/Cadillac Ranch

Courtesy of KnackStudios

You don’t need to look too hard in America to find jaw-dropping collections of junk cars. In just one example from a couple years ago, Jalopnik found a junkyard with more than a thousand classic cars rotting into the Earth.

It takes something special to get noticed, then—something like turning old cars into an oversized work of post-industrial art. The famous Cadillac Ranch near Amarillo, Texas, is made of a series of Caddys made between 1949 and 1963, half-buried into the ground. Carhenge, found in a lonesome stretch of the Sand Hills near Alliance, Neb., consists of 38 cars arrayed in a layout mimicking Stonehenge (its current state, that is, not what it presumably looked like in its heyday). America is dotted with dozens of replica Stonehenges, but only Carhenge gets mystical in such an automotive way.

8. Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Arizona

The Arizona desert, with its dry air and alkaline soil, was made for preservation. It’s the reason the U.S. Air Force made David-Monthan AFB, found in a far-flung locale not far from the Mexican border, the resting place for its retired aircraft.

Officially, the guys here in charge of planes out to pasture are called the 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group (AMARG). Simply, they run the aircraft boneyard. More than 4000 old planes live out their retirement years at this base, staying young in the Southwestern sun in case the Air Force decides it needs to cannibalize parts for some greater purpose, sell the planes whole, or bring them back into service. For some tenants, then, a return to glory isn’t out of the question.

9. Fietsdepot, Amsterdam

Courtesy of Shift

If you leave a bike chained to the wrong post in Amsterdam and the police take it away, not to worry. It probably ended up here at Fietsdepot, the city’s bicycle depository. Yes, so many people bike in Amsterdam that the Dutch have a sprawling cycle impound lot. Just 10 euros will get your beloved bike out of impound. While you’re here, gaze upon the multitude of two-wheelers and weep for those whose owners will never come.

10. Sunray Bugs

For years, Leroy “Corky” Yeager ran Sunray Bugs from his property near Dade City, Fla., and reportedly kept 800 Volkswagens of varying models in his VW graveyard, awaiting restoration or to be sold for parts. But, while Yeager’s auto shop was zoned for commercial use, it turned out that the greater part of his land was not. When a neighbor whined to the county that this library of automotive history was an eyesore, the county discovered the paperwork irregularity, and Corky’s Volkswagens had to go. He and his employees had to clear them out by February 2012.

That’s not the end of the story, though, as the Tampa Bay Times’ Lee Logan reported last fall. Before the VWs vanished, Yeager and his team stripped the parts from as many as they possibly could. Disappointed in the county’s ruling but undeterred, Yeager kept Sunray open and still ships those vintage VW parts.

10 Not-So-Small Facts About the Volkswagen Beetle

While Volkswagen has announced—for a second time—that it's going to cease production on the Beetle, people are still singing the praises of the quirky little car. Here are 10 not-so-small things you need to know about the German car that was once named one of the top four cars of the century.


Adolf Hitler checks out a VW Beetle
Getty Images

It’s long been said that Adolf Hitler was the man behind the Beetle, and that’s sort of true. The dictator wanted German families to be able to afford a car, so he enlisted automaker Ferdinand Porsche (yes, that Porsche) to make “the people’s car.” But the basis for the Beetle had been around since long before Hitler’s demand; the Bug was heavily influenced by Porsche's V series. Rumors that Hitler directly designed the car are probably false; though he was the one who reportedly said that the car should look like a beetle, because “You only have to observe nature to learn how best to achieve streamlining,” it’s likely that he was regurgitating something he had read in an automotive magazine. Still, one thing is for certain: Hitler himself placed the cornerstone for the Porsche factory in Wolfsburg, Germany.


Perhaps still wary of anything imported from Germany, Americans shunned the Beetle when it was introduced in the States in 1949: Only two were sold in the first year. But after that, sales grew quickly. By the 1960s, hundreds of thousands of Bugs were sold every year, topping out at 570,000 in 1970.


A pink VW Beetle

We have the public to thank for the car’s distinctive nickname. Originally known as the Volkswagen Type 1, the car’s curves and rounded top led to its later, insect-like moniker. Volkswagen must have realized they had a good thing on their hands, because they started referring to the car as the VW Beetle in the late 1960s.


The UK and the U.S. aren’t the only countries that bestowed a new name on the Volkswagen Type 1. In France, it's called Coccinellewhich means ladybug. It's Maggiolino and Fusca in Italy and Brazil, respectively, both of which mean "beetle." Mexico calls it Vocho; it's Peta (turtle) in Bolivia; and Kodok (frog) in Indonesia. 


In 1999, Advertising Age declared the car's not-so-small ad campaign to be the best campaign of the last 100 years, besting Coca-Cola, Marlboro, Nike, and McDonald’s. The quirky concept and copy—which, according to Advertising Age, “Gave advertising permission to surprise, to defy and to engage the consumer without bludgeoning him about the face and body”—was a game-changer for the entire industry.

The "Think Small" line and accompanying self-deprecating copy was written by Julian Koenig, who was also responsible for naming Earth Day and coming up with Timex’s “It takes a licking and keeps on ticking” tagline. He’s also half-responsible for daughter Sarah Koenig, whom you may know from NPR’s This American Life and Serial.


Herbie the Love Bug

Because of their distinctive aesthetic, VW Bugs have been associated with everything from the Beatles to Transformers. A few highlights:

  • The Beetle with the license plate “LMW 28IF” on the cover of The Beatles' Abbey Road album was sold at an auction for $23,000 in 1986. It is now on display at Volkswagen's AutoMuseum at the company’s headquarters in Wolfsburg, Germany.
  • The Fremont Troll sculpture in Seattle, a huge statue lurking under the Aurora Bridge, clutches an actual VW Beetle. An in-progress picture shows that the car was once red. It also once contained a time capsule of Elvis memorabilia, which was stolen.
  • The Herbie the Love Bug series was a big hit for Disney in the late 1960s and early 1970s. One of the original Herbies sold for $126,500 at an auction in 2015.
  • In the original Transformers cartoon, Bumblebee transformed from a VW Bug. The car was changed to a Camaro for the live-action movies.


The so-called “blumenvasen,” a small vase that could be clipped to the dashboard, speaker grille, or windshield, was porcelain when it was originally offered. The nod to flower power became such a symbol of the car that it was incorporated into the 1998 redesign. Sadly, it didn’t make the cut for the most recent overhaul: The vase was eliminated in 2011 by marketing execs apparently seeking to make the car more male-friendly.


When the millionth VW Beetle rolled off the line in 1955, the company capped the achievement by plating the car in gold and giving it diamante accents. They also created a Bug with a wicker body in collaboration with master basket-maker Thomas Heinrich.


After WWII, the VW factory in Wolfsburg, Germany, was supposed to be handed over to the British. No British car manufacturer wanted to take responsibility for the company, though, saying that "the vehicle does not meet the fundamental technical requirement of a motor-car," "it is quite unattractive to the average buyer," and that "To build the car commercially would be a completely uneconomic enterprise." Whoops.


The last VW Bug
Getty Images

Beetle #21,529,464—the one celebrated by the mariachi band—is now at Volkswagen's AutoMuseum.

Distracted Walking Is Now Illegal in One California Town

Texting while walking makes you a slower and more distracted pedestrian, whether you realize it or not. Now, one small town in California is enforcing legislation that encourages people to put away their phones before stepping outside. As Business Insider reports, being charged with “distracted walking” in Montclair, California can land you with a three-figure fine.

The law went into effect in the Los Angeles suburb on January 3 and recently made headlines after city officials came out in defense of it. They claim that the increased use of cell phones, especially among younger people, presents a public safety issue on the roads.

Anyone who talks on their phone, looks at their phone, or has headphones on while crossing the street is breaking the new rule. The law excludes people making 911 calls, on-duty first responders, and people with hearing aids. Fines start at $100 for the first offense and rise to $200 for the second, then reach $500 for every offense after that.

Other places, like Honolulu, Hawaii and Stamford, Connecticut, have enacted similar laws, but experts are still skeptical of how effective they actually are. Research shows walking while texting isn’t necessarily the scary public safety hazard it’s made out to be, and that distracted drivers and urban street plans that prioritize cars over pedestrians are much bigger problems. Regardless of whether the law reduces accidents, it might at least make walking a little less annoying for pedestrians, even if they’re guilty of texting on the go themselves.

[h/t Business Insider]


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